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Parks and Recreation Recap: Getting Trashed

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Women In Garbage" Episode 514 -- Pictured: (l-r) Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope

This was the most far-fetched and ridiculous half-hour of television I have ever witnessed. I’m supposed to believe the government would hold a commission on gender equality and not invite any women? Ha! That’d be like if Congress had a panel on birth control and didn’t have any female representatives! Like — oh, wait, that happened? That totally happened. We are in fact fast approaching the one-year anniversary of when that happened.

I see what you did there, Parks and Rec. 

Leslie and April vs. The Male Establishment
Leslie understands that Pawnee has a ways to go where the rights and representation of women are concerned. Technically, she’s not even allowed to reserve a conference room without her husband or father’s signature. After learning of her hero Paula’s failed attempt to get a commission on gender equality started (the guys’ club that was government in the seventies said that because Paula had her period at the time, her idea must have been crazy, which is definitely something no one would ever suggest today), Leslie gets the green light from Chris to lead one herself. Chris is having adorable grown-up person problems understanding the modern dating scene — somebody hasn’t been reading the latest New York Times trend stories! — but more on that later. My ladybrain can only focus on one story line at a time.

The commission is stellar except that, as April so eloquently puts it, it’s a sausagefest. Chris is appalled. “I just assumed that some of the departments would send women!” he says. A beat, then: “Oh my God. I am part of the problem.” BREAKTHROUGH. The female employment rate in government is abysmal, Leslie reports, and the sanitation guys are the No. 1 offenders. They clap for themselves except OH WAIT this is one of those times when it’s bad to be No. 1, like when America is No. 1 in obesity or incarcerating our own citizens. Cue typical male apologist excuses for the dearth of woman in their department: “Not that many women apply!” “It’s a very physically demanding job. Your average woman can’t handle it.”

“Oh, no?” Leslie says, as her gentle expression morphs into a game face and we CUT TO: Leslie and April as garbage collectors.

With the help of Leslie’s binders and April’s actual genuine enthusiasm, this female dynamic duo runs way ahead of schedule. “That’s weird, us being women and all,” says Leslie. “You’d think our boobs would get in the way.” Leslie is this close to defeating the patriarchy once and for all when her unstoppable force meets an immovable object: a gigantic old refrigerator. The men mockingly offer assistance but Leslie refuses to accept help. “Do we need a hand? Did Joan of Arc need a hand?” (NBC’s second Joan of Arc ref after the one on 30 Rock.) Umm, when she was getting burned at the stake I’m going to say yes, Joan of Arc did in fact need a hand, but as always I admire Leslie’s spirit. “We are not going to leaving until this symbolic feminist obstacle is loaded on to that truck of women’s advancement.”

Hours later, Leslie and April find out from a ghost/passerby that the men couldn’t move the fridge either. GASP. What treachery is this? So our women in arms summon the female staff from the soup kitchen. All the (remarkably strong) soup ladies help load up the truck of women’s advancement, feeding the hungry and providing three new female trash haulers to the Pawnee government. Victory!

Playing With scissors
Ron is looking after Diane’s daughters for the day. I must admit that I find the girls’ tendency toward Lisa Franking the crap out of everything they touch to be a little over-the-top, even for children. I kind of wish we could trade them in for Connie Britton’s musically gifted kids from Nashville. But then the progeny of Xena win 1,000 points for the following exchange:

Jerry: Heyyy, girls!
Girl 1:
No.

Ron allows the girls to wreak sparkly, multicolored havoc all over his office and body, but ducks out of sight once Ann volunteers to babysit. Ann overcomes her lousy first impression by busting out her nurse kit so the girls can play doctor (not in a sexual way). All’s swell until the adults get locked out of Ron’s office and the girls cut each others’ hair. Classic kid move, but I remain unimpressed; that’s Bush league. You have to live with your hair, children! The secret to successful sharp object anarchy is to go all Edward Scissorhands on your sister’s Barbie dolls.                                                                                        

All of this ceases to matter because RON LOVES DIANE. Also, Diane is super chill about the hair cutting because she knows that she’s bred Satan’s spawn/one time one of those girls put the other one in the dryer/seriously, guys, babysitting is better than birth control/anyway hair grows back. Then Diane says, “It’s so sweet to me how much you care. This is why I love you.” And Ron says “I love you too” and a thousand tiny butterflies explode out of my heart and flutter all over my apartment. Love is real, people. But good luck telling that to …

Chris Traeger, Amateur Dater
Chris, who is trying to court Shauna Malwae-Tweep, reports back to Leslie from the front lines of 21st-century dating: “Recently we engaged in something called a ‘group hang.’ It’s like a regular date, but there are seven other people.” Chris thinks Shauna will have to reveal their official status in a disclaimer above her story on the garbage collection adventure, but her wording — “a personal relationship” — fails to clarify things. Leslie tells Chris to try chilling out, which is like telling the blonde girl in a horror movie not to go into the basement by herself.

Though I very much enjoyed this accurate portrayal of the lingual gymnastics we youngins today engage in to avoid saying how we feel about the people with whom we have, ah, personal relationships, I’m having a hard time with this Chris-is-unlucky-in-love thing. Chris has dated some of the most eligible women on the show; I don’t entirely buy that Shauna/all the single ladies in Pawnee aren’t interested. He is, after all, “a very beautiful man.” I know not all of you like it when I bring this up, but he was by far the handsomest Outsider and that is saying something because basically all of the Outsiders were handsome.

Double-dribbling up an idea
With the exception of Tom’s great idea for a way to improve basketball — “I feel like everyone should be the same size” — this piece didn’t work for me. Do I think Ben Wyatt looks cute in those nerdy goggles? Please, I’m not a monster. Of course I like watching Andy shotgun a bag of Skittles. But most of this was predictable, especially the “grown men got their asses kicked by preteens” scene. And didn’t Tom really like basketball back when he was at Entertainment 720, which is why he had Detlef Schrempf and Roy Hibbert hang around the “office” and shoot hoops all day? I buy that Tom’s a terrible athlete, but I doubt/never knew he was basketball illiterate.

DONNA WATCH: WHERE THE EFF IS DONNA EDITION
I can barely type because I am suffering from a severe Donna deficiency. Here is a present to commemorate that feminist victory. It is a box filled with trash.

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC